Opinion 

Lights out for pensions dashboard?

Simon Read

Simon Read

We know that the government is busy stockpiling food and medicine to ensure that there are “adequate supplies” for hungry and sick Brits once Brexit happens next March.

In the face of the humanitarian crisis that our leaders are anticipating, it may seem forgivable for less important issues to be kicked into the long grass. 

But it is not forgivable.

A government must be able to deal with all the different issues facing it and, while it may prioritise certain things in the face of an emergency, that does not mean work in other areas should cease.

So the report that MP Esther McVey, the work and pensions secretary, is thinking of ditching the pensions dashboard is concerning. 

The dashboard, as we all know, would allow people to see all their retirement savings in one place.

It is much needed. A typical worker has 11 employers during their career which means they could have 11 different pension pots.

Keeping track of them is not easy, especially when people move home reasonably frequently and firms go bust. And with a lot of people not focusing on their future years, many simply do not realise they may have a few small pots here and there.

Seeing all their small pots in one place should help folk get a better understanding of what state their retirement savings is in and the options they have.

Back to Ms McVey. She has been in the role since January when she replaced David Gauke who, in turn, had replaced Damien Green the previous June.

Mr Green had lasted less than a year in the role, but that was much longer than his predecessor Stephen Crabb who spent less than four months in the job.

In an age when cabinet ministers seem to resign or be pushed from their post every other week, that may not appear remarkable. But such impermanence in the post suggests there is a feeling at the top that it is less important than other issues.

That is a huge shame as the pension crisis is only likely to worsen in the coming years as more people begin to feel they have been misled about their options and opportunities.

And that means we could end up with more than just the 3 million or so Women Against State Pension Inequality campaigning for justice for their pension entitlement.

The pensions dashboard was first proposed after much campaigning by the pensions industry in 2016 when George Osborne was chancellor. Back then he said it would be up and running by 2019.

But Ms McVey’s current indecision makes that start date look very unlikely. In fact the whole notion of a dashboard to help people with their retirement looks to be in doubt.

According to reports, Ms McVey thinks the service could distract from the roll-out of universal credit, a major IT project that has been beset with problems. Is that more important or urgent?

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